This lightly pickled Salvadoran cabbage coleslaw (curtido) is quick and easy to make and great served with tacos, pupusas, burgers, and soups.
When it comes to greens and veggies, I personally find it tastes best when it's raw because of the fresh crunch and natural flavors so it's no surprise that whenever I get a side of curtido in its little plastic baggy with my pupusas it always reminds me that this is a fantastic slaw to just have around the house all the time because it is light, easy to make and only slightly pickled so you can eat it all the time, anytime.
Curtido is very easy to make, and oddly not very easy to find in stores where I am from. It usually isn't sold at restaurants as well because it is usually served as a free side or topping so I decided to put together this recipe so it can be enjoyed anytime in a snap.
INGREDIENTS FOR CURTIDO
- Mexican Oregano - Traditionally, Mexican oregano should be used for this recipe but it may be hard to find. As a substitute I have used regular oregano and it works just as well. I have also used Italian seasoning as well (combination of dried basil, thyme and oregano) and that also works very well as well. The main difference is Mexican oregano a lot more intense and has a spicier kick than regular oregano so the substitution will not be exact but it will still be flavorful.
- Cabbage - I like to use green cabbage for this recipe but I have made this with napa cabbage before as well and it works just as well but it has less of a crunch.
- Vinegar - I have tested this on many types of vinegars and I found that the simple white vinegar works best because it is not over powering.
- Onion - For this recipe, I like to use red onions because of the vibrant color.
- Jalapeno - Jalapeno is completely optional if you like your curtido a bit spicy.
CURTIDO WITH A TWIST? SWITCH UP THE CABBAGE!
If you follow along, you'll know I love traditional recipes but I also love adding twists to recipes as well. Traditionally, curtido is made with green cabbage but I have tried using Asian nappa cabbage for this recipe and it works just as well! The main difference between the two cabbages is texture. I find nappa cabbage a bit more leafier and lighter so the slaw has a bit less crunch but it absorbs the brine quicker from it's soft leaves. Nappa cabbage also has a hint of sweetness to it as well, and it comes through in the slaw.
MY SECRET INGREDIENT
To make a good curtido, my secret ingredient is hot water. When you layer the onions at the very top of the bowl and pour hot water over it, it cooks the onions slightly so it removes that harsh raw onion bite, which balances out the flavors in this curtido. The cool thing is, since the onions are very slightly cooked, it also brings out the natural sweetness in them as well which works beautifully with this slaw.
(Note: I use hot water not boiling water. If you are heating your water from a kettle let it sit for 5 minutes to slightly cool it before pouring it over the slaw.)
When you are putting this together, don't worry if it looks like there is not enough brine. While you are mixing the slaw with your hand (and you should use your hand), give the cabbage a few firm squeezes to bruise the cabbage - this will not only soften the cabbage more quickly and the salts will also draw out the water from the cabbage which will give you more brine.
LOOKING FOR MORE SALAD RECIPES? TRY THESE!
- Watermelon Feta Salad with Pickled Daikons
- Japanese Kani Salad (Japanese Crab Salad)
- Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)
- Crispy Garlic Lemongrass Tofu Buddha Bowl
- Yum Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Salad)
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Curtido (Salvadoran Pickled Cabbage Slaw)
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- It will look like there isn't enough brine before you start mixing everything together (before the salt draws out the water from the cabbage) but in case you plan to jar it and you need more brine, the brine can be easily doubled.
- Storage life of this slaw is a week.
- Keeping the onions at the very top so that the boiled water slightly cooks it gives the onion less of a sharp raw onion kick and makes the slightly sweeter.
- I use hot water not boiling water. If you are heating your water from a kettle let it sit for 5 minutes to slightly cool it before pouring it over the slaw.
- 600 g cabbage (approximately half a cabbage)
- 1 onion (red or white)
- 1 carrot
- 1-2 jalapeno (optional)
- Put the cabbage on the cutting board stem side down and cut it in half
- With a large knife, cut the stem out of each half by cutting an upside down V around the stem on the bottom to remove the tough part of the cabbage (we only want to use the leaves)
- Cut each half again, in half (so that it is in quarters and easier to thinly slice)
- Thinly slice the cabbage and put it in a large bowl and clean it by dunking it in cold water a few times.
- Drain well and set aside
- Wash the carrot, and cut thin slivers out of it. If you have a grater, you can use that as well on the largest hole.
- Add the carrot slivers to the bowl with the cabbage.
- Peel and finely slice the onion and place a layer at the very top of the bowl on top of the carrots and cabbage.
- Sprinkle the salt and oregano over the onions.
- Evenly pour the hot water over the onions
- Add the white vinegar and wait approximately 1 minute or until the mixture is cool before you start mixing everything together.
- I find the best tool for mixing this is your hands. The cabbage will feel very stiff in the beginning and it will look like you do not have enough brine at first. While you are mixing the slaw together, you should use your hand and give the cabbage a few firm squeezes. This will release some water from the cabbage and soften it faster.
- Enjoy as is as a lightly pickled slaw or as a topping on the same day, or put it in the fridge to let the flavors meld a bit more! 🙂
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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